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Joe Maddon teaching Cubs expectations is a positive word

CHICAGO -- Before Friday’s game in front of another packed house at Wrigley Field, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon was asked how his young team would deal with the expectations of now being expected to gain a playoff berth.

Would his young players -- particularly the four rookies who start regularly -- feel pressure as the final month of the season approaches?

The question wasn’t asked in a negative way, but did make the assumption that expectations and pressure were potential pratfalls.

“Expectations, I want us to always use that as a positive word.” Maddon said. “I do believe it’s a positive word. Pressure should be a positive word. It’s not a negative word because if you’re feeling those type of things, it’s probably something attached to them.”

That something is the team’s play through the first 4½ months of the season. The Cubs have played well and would own one of the five playoff berths in the National League if the season ended today.

Of course, there would be no expectations, no pressure if the Cubs had struggled to this point.

“So I want us to channel those thoughts, those words in a positive way and not run away from them,” Maddon said. “Why would you run away from expectations?

“I want our guys to expect the best. I also believe that moments like this should bring out the best in you. They really can, or they should.

“To this point, we’ve processed the moment pretty well.”

This group wasn’t expected to contend until next season, but the front office has shifted its focus to the present.

“People talk about it being a year early,” general manager Jed Hoyer said earlier this week. “I think if we had just expected all these young players to come and contribute, it would have been unfair. But they’re doing it night in and night out. At this point, we expect those guys to go out and perform.

“Right now, our focus is really on 2015. We’re in an exciting position. We’ll play out this season before you worry about next season. I think that’s kind of where we are. There’s plenty of time in October, November and December, etc., to talk about 2016.”